OT Japan announces plan to review entire energy policy

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TOKYO (March 10, 2000 8:24 a.m. EST http://www.nandotimes.com) - After scaling back its plansfor new nuclear power plants in the wake of a recent accident, Japan said Friday it plans to reconsider its overall energy policy.

Takashi Fukaya, minister of international trade and industry, told a Cabinet meeting that his ministry will "begin reviewing overall energy policy taking into account changes in energy demand growth." Fukaya's remarks were relayed by Chief Cabinet Secretary Mikio Aoki.

Kyodo News agency reported Thursday that Japan plans to cut the number of nuclear power plants to be built by 2010 to 13 from the planned 16-20 following public ire over the country's worst nuclear accident.

Public television network NHK and Kyodo reported Friday that Fukaya said a cut in the number of nuclear power plants was inevitable.

However, officials at the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy, which operates under the Industry Ministry - known as MITI - said that no decision had been made on whether to decrease the number of power plants.

Compared with a 1998 estimate, signs of energy demand have recently showed a downward trend, according to the officials.

MITI plans to conduct a study on Japan's energy outlook for about one year, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

On Sept. 30 in Tokaimura, 70 miles northeast of Tokyo, three workers at a fuel processing plant set off an uncontrolled nuclear reaction that exposed more than 400 townspeople and workers to radiation in Japan's worst nuclear accident. One worker died from radiation sickness.

Resource-poor Japan depends on nuclear energy for more than a third of its electricity needs.

-- viewer (justp@ssing.by), March 10, 2000

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